Straight Talk – Roast Chicken
By Stella Nicholls
Sales. The picture that comes to mind when I think of them, are of an ‘urban legend’ told in Benoni South Africa, the place where I grew up and went to school. A local supermarket had recently opened, in fact it wasn’t just a supermarket, it was a hypermarket! Aisle upon aisle of shopping convenience, bursting with bargains.
The opening sale was legendary. Well, at least that’s what I’m told, having avoided it at all costs. In fact, the story goes, that there was so much pushing and shoving going on, so many people trying to grab a bargain, that two middle-aged women, who in everyday life, were calm and I’m sure lovely people, ended up fighting over a frozen chicken. They tugged and pulled on the poor bird, until one of them got fed up, jostled the bird out of the other woman’s hands, tucked it under her arm like a rugby ball and ran for the ‘try line’. The tills were just in sight, when the other ‘chickenless’ woman, not to be outdone, charged up behind her, grabbed the ‘rugby ball’ out of her competitor’s arms and promptly hit her over the head with it.
Now, the story may have been embellished somewhat, but just the thoughts of being involved with crowds of surging masses sends shivers down my spine. Being slightly introverted, crowds are a challenge for me at the best of times.
Most of us love a roast chicken but, surely the desire to eat crispy skin and succulent drumsticks paled into insignificance when overtaken by the surge of competitiveness that the two ladies felt at that moment. The need to win at all costs.
I’ve mistakenly, it seems, always thought that I was fairly immune to a person’s ‘sales spiel’. The minute I hear someone asking, ‘how I am’ on the phone, my mind wanders and I try to halt the conversation in a few polite-ish sentences… ‘Sorry, I’m not interested, thank you’, before hanging up. I do sometimes feel a bit guilty because everyone needs to make a living, and I would hate to be the one calling. It seems like a thankless and unrewarding task, so surely there must be a better way to get our products in front of a prospective customer?
Cutting back to the self-assuredness that I had felt over not being caught in a sales person’s pitch. A few years ago, I found myself lying on a spa bed, having been bought a facial treatment for my birthday. As I tried to relax, amidst all sorts of creams and exfoliants being massaged into my face, I caught the concerned look of the skin therapist. “How often do you exfoliate?”, she asked. I mumbled something incoherent, feeling guilty for not exfoliating more often and making mental notes never to go for a facial again without exfoliating first. “Your pores are large”, she continued. “If you exfoliated regularly, with our ‘superduper, all natural, pore-reducing, state of the art, miracle-working, anti ageing – you’ll look 21 again cream’, you would notice such a difference!”. Those may not have been her exact words, but the message was clear, and her words were the perfect trigger to convince me, as I vulnerably waited for my revitalising face mask to ‘do its thing’. I left the health spa, having paid £60.00 for a tiny tub of cream. Now I know there may be far more expensive creams out there, but for me, it was quite a stretch. (I normally pick up my face cream from my local pharmacy at a fraction of the cost).
Sheepishly, I told my husband; he laughed incredulously. The worst part though was that it didn’t work the miracles that I was hoping for, as lovely as it smelt and as softening as it was, I still looked my age (which will remain undisclosed) and my pores, well they still looked like my pores. Ouch! Lesson learned…I am as susceptible as anyone when it comes to the things that mean a lot to me, and where I am shown a benefit that I feel will ‘enhance’ my life.
Should the battle for sales be a cutthroat win at all costs industry? One of the most successful salespeople I know says that he very seldom sells a product outright. He is one of the greatest networkers around and says that it is all about relationship building and getting to know people. He went on to say that ‘Products tell, benefits sell’, meaning that a successful salesperson, doesn’t ‘hard sell’ the goods, they share the benefits of the product with someone that they have a developed a relationship with and that person will effectively decide for themselves if they want to buy, or not. In fact, he said it should go even deeper than that. A successful sales person should believe in their product to the point that not only will they know how it will benefit someone, they should also find out if it will have a positive impact on them and whether it will genuinely add value to their business. There is a sincerity and integrity that comes when we value our products or services to the extent that we would hold them back from someone that we don’t think would benefit from them. But does that really happen?
Robert Ingersoll once said, ‘We rise by lifting others’, and this principle could be applied in business. Perhaps when a community starts genuinely caring about more than profit margins and also looks out for their fellow business associates, a productive business cycle will naturally begin to flow between individuals; even if a prospective customer is passed on to another business contact with a better fit for that particular transaction. Helping businesses grow in our region, means that sometimes a lead needs to be passed on to another business owner. Holding onto business that doesn’t suit both parties for the sake of making a quick sale, is a false economy and will probably not turn into a long-lasting relationship.
Connections made and nurtured in the city, make for a healthy and vibrant economy, whilst transparency, honesty and integrity all play a part in gaining the trust of our customers. Competition is also positive and keeps us on our toes to provide the best service or product that we possibly can. It would seem then, that a balance of networking, connectivity, passing on leads, and remaining competitive by crafting excellent products or services, will lead to a vibrant and growing region and is the lifeblood of achieving the necessary sales. Karime Hassan, at a recent event held at Exeter Cathedral, said that Exeter is forecast to be one of the UK’s fastest growing cities, ranking at number five in the country. It would seem that the community spirit and support that exists amongst businesses certainly enhances the success of the region.
Imagine if the ending of the ‘Frozen Chicken ladies’ story had been joyful and instead of fighting over the fowl, they had taken a step back, smiled at each other and said, ‘you take it!’ You never know, they may have even invited each other around for a Sunday roast!